While the @toryeducation Twitter feed carries on pretending that whoever is operating it doesn’t care what anyone outside the Department for Education (DfE) thinks, and that anyone not showing their unadulterated adoration for Michael “Oiky” Gove is fair game for whatever abuse they care to dole out, today’s revelations suggest the time of reckoning is approaching.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has broken the news to “Oiky” that his appeal against the decision to order the publication of material about the Free Schools programme has failed. Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told Gove that “Your department’s arguments failed to convince”. And one slice of brass neck did not impress Graham one bit.
“I do not for a moment accept that the publication of the material that you are obliged by law to make public today in any way ‘facilitates the targeted intimidation of brave people acting on noble motives’”, he concluded, adding “I will join you in defending the right of anyone to oppose (or support) Government policy. But I will also defend the operation of the Freedom of Information act in the public interest”.
Those at the DfE reading the one about “brave people acting on noble motives” may be excused the experience of jaw striking deck at the sheer effrontery of “Oiky”, especially in view of the behaviour of Dominic Cummings, who is described in the current issue of Private Eye (#1334, and available on all news stands for the highly reasonable price of £1.50) as “the new Damian McBride”.
This title has been bestowed on the leader of the Gove polecats at the same time as the Eye has revealed the source of Observer man Toby Helm’s piece telling that the word had gone out to stop anyone within the DfE contributing to @toryeducation. That order went out from Young Dave’s chief spinner Craig Oliver, and as the Eye has observed, it has been thus far ignored.
So now Gove and his polecats are on a collision course with 10 Downing Street. Will the @toryeducation account continue to defy Oliver, and by definition his boss, just to save face and not show weakness in the face of the hated Observer? Or, as looks more likely, will the FoI information release weaken Gove’s position and leave Cummings high and dry?
After all, if staff morale is as bad as has been reported, another case having to be headed off from going to tribunal – or not – can only be a matter of time. “Oiky” and his polecats may be running out of road. Watch this space.